It’s FAIR Conference time! Today was day 1 and I had a fabulous time. Previously I’ve attended alone, but my sister and brother-in-law joined me this year. They’re not into apologetics, but they are indeed thoughtful members of the Church, and they both greatly enjoyed the day. Proof that non-apologists can enjoy the FAIR conference! (I tell you this in case you missed out but might like to come next year. Also, the presentations should be available soon via mp3, if you’d like to go that route. I’m uncertain on the cost, but hope it isn’t too much as I would like to download a couple of today’s presentations.)
Blair Hodges has fabulous summaries of each presentation, so I’ll direct you to his posts for details, but I’ll post my more brief thoughts on today’s presentations below.
Wade Miller – Science and the Book of Mormon
Ah, cureloms and cumoms. And other things. Wade Miller, a paleontologist, presented a quick overview of how science supports the Book of Mormon. Of course, science does not prove the Book of Mormon, but it is a secondary evidence. Science cannot be used to disprove the Book of Mormon. He discussed specific claims in the Smithsonian letter from 1998 that supposedly disprove the Book of Mormon, explaining why the Smithsonian claim was false at the time, has since been proven false, or is an unknown so can’t really prove or disprove anything.
As for cureloms and cumoms, his personal favorite candidates for what they could be are llamas and mastodons. I love llamas and think “curelom” is the more fun word, so I hope llamas are cureloms.
Vickey Taylor – The Sariah Dilemma: Finding Increased Faith When Our Children Misplace Their Own
Vickey Taylor discussed how to keep sane in the storm when children wander and make bad choices. “The first and the most central assistance to be gained is from Christ. His shoulders are strong and whole enough to tend us and our temporarily lost children.” Many righteous people in the scriptures had children who wandered astray.
We may be prone to keep ourselves in the middle of the storm and drama. This doesn’t help us or our children. Prevent depletion of spiritual reserves. We have control of our own actions and reactions. It makes the devil happy when our children’s actions pull us into great sorrow. Keep feeding the good, not the evil. Good = joy, peace, love, hope, empathy, kindness, faith, etc. Evil = anger, regret, self pity, etc. Keep your job separate from the Lord’s. Our job is to remember Christ, humble ourselves, and follow him. The Lord’s job is to feel the weight of our children’s redemption. Keep praying. Don’t lose patience. Keep on loving them. Love is the greatest power there is.
John Gee – The Larger Issue
He discussed the Book of Abraham. Though he covered a number of arguments and explanations supporting the Book of Abraham, his primary theme book-ending the arguments was that the Book of Abraham is such a minor issue when it comes to the truthfulness of the Church. The veracity of the Church is not dependent upon the Book of Abraham. Yes, the Book of Abraham can be defended, and he does indeed believe in it, but its relative importance is low.
He also listed some general apologetics advice:
1. It is not necessary to refute every statement of a critic. One must understand the argument and refute that.
2. Not every argument or point is worth defending. There is no need to defend mistakes.
3. Truth is not well-served by a bad argument. Let go of bad arguments.
4. Believe that man cannot comprehend all that God does. We will not have answers to all in this life.
What is worth defending? The gospel and doctrine, as defined in Third Nephi. That the Book of Mormon is true. That God is real. That Christ is real. That the Holy Ghost is real.
Ugo Perego – Haplogroup X in Light of Recent Book of Mormon Claims
An hour of mitochondrial DNA information (it was actually very interesting), with the conclusion that Haplogroup X proves or disproves nothing related to the Book of Mormon. Also, it is very, very unlikely that DNA will ever prove or disprove the Book of Mormon as genetic drift and Native population crash would mean lost DNA since we only have current DNA to work with.
McKay White – The Kirtland Safety Society: The Myths, the Facts, and the Prophet’s Good Name
Myth: The Kirtland Safety Society (KSS) was a wildcat bank (i.e., a bank that doesn’t really physically exist except for the corrupt bankers to take the money and then disappear).
Fact: The KSS was in a prominent location in town, hardly hidden, so it was clearly not a wildcat bank.
Myth: The KSS didn’t have a charter and was illegal.
Fact: Joseph Smith (JS) and Sydney Rigdon (SR) were convicted, but the 1816 act under which they were prosecuted was inoperative. Numerous other institutions operated without a bank charter and were never prosecuted. JS and SR were prosecuted because of religious persecution, to get them to leave the state, which worked.
Myth: The failure of the KSS proves JS is not a prophet because of a JS revelation that the KSS would last.
Fact: No such revelation.
Myth: JS stole the money.
Fact: [long explanation of why a bank was necessary and a good thing] And he couldn’t have stolen the money.
Myth: The KSS was a money-making scheme by JS because he had so much debt.
Fact: His assets were greater than his debts. His obligations were fairly made. He had multiple cosigners. He was secondarily liable. He paid all honest debts.
Myth: JS wanted to print a lot of money to make himself rich.
Fact: JS was the largest shareholder. Having the most invested, he would lose the most. If he was in it for the money, he would have bailed at the first sign of impending doom, but he went into debt to put more money into it and ended up losing a lot.
Myth: It failed because JS and SR kept printing more and more money.
Fact: It failed for two reasons.
1. A bank run, a coordinated attack by Church enemies. Antagonists collected as many bank notes as they could and went to redeem them for specie (money), which would have taken all their reserve. The KSS denied their notes and the value collapsed.
2. Warren Parrish. He embezzled $20,000 (out of the $21,000 reserve, so almost all of it), thus almost completely wiping out the KSS assets.
Ron Barney – The Reliability of Mormon History Produced by the LDS Church
Ron Barney discussed the attitude of the Church archives and history area, which is that history must be produced which is thorough, open, and meticulous. He discussed the various books and other projects that have come out and that are coming out, spending significant time on The Joseph Smith Papers.
It is clear that church history in general, and Joseph Smith in particular, are areas in which he has a great love and passion, and it came across well in his presentation.
Robert White – On Being An Apologist: Imperatives, Predicaments, Perils, and Blessings
This presentation was unexpected to me. I thought it would be boring. I was very, very mistaken. This is the one that I want to purchase when it becomes available. Brother White has a great sense of humor. And this presentation was much more interesting that I expected. (Not because I expected Brother White to be dry – on the contrary, his posts on the FAIR email list have always been some enlightening – but because the topic seemed a bit too naval-gazing. And it was very naval-gazing, but also very fun to listen to.)
He discussed why apologetics is important (there is much misunderstanding and much hatred out there). But also, was as apologists must be careful and know that Christ is the Redeemer. We defend the Church to ensure others receive a witness of Christ. We do not attack. We do not declare doctrine. We are not officially assigned by the Church. But we stand for truth and righteousness, and we help protect the fragile souls of others.
It is important that we have faith. If the Lord undertakes to explain what to do so that people will have faith, we should listen. “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith” (D&C 109:7).
Apologetics is divinely mandated: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:27–28).
But apologetics is perilous work. C. S. Lewis: “I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality—from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. That also is why we need one another’s continual help—oremus pro invincem [Let us pray for each other].”
We need ensure the things we study do not take the place of our faith. We should not be Latter-day Saint apologists, but rather Latter-day Saints.
He wonders whether Latter-day Saints need inoculations or transfusions. Everyone is different, so how do we know which viruses to inoculate who against? He is aware that there are some who are less than thrilled that the Gospel Principles manual will be used for the Priesthood/Relief Society manual the next 2 years. That manual is meant not to inoculate, but to transfuse the basics into the souls of the Saints. If people know the Church is true, then the strange and wonderful things they come across will not affect their testimonies.
“The gift of the Holy Ghost comes after one repents and becomes worthy. …The Holy Ghost bears witness of the truth and impresses upon the soul the reality of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ so deeply that no earthly power or authority can separate him from that knowledge” (Elder Faust, Ensign, April 1996, p. 4).